Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let's Make Air Travel More Comfortable

The long-delayed, much-ballyhooed so-called "Dreamliner" took off today for the first time not far from here. The two chase jets, which looked like some kind of fighter plane, soared over my house but the 787 took off to the northwest and couldn't be seen by me. For one thing, it's all forested around my house so they have to fly pretty close to directly overhead for me to see them. I stood out on my deck and listened to the distant engine sounds of takeoff, and through the window watched the video on TV on CNBC to see the plane lift off the runway.

The name "Dreamliner" somehow holds out the promise of more comfortable air travel, doesn't it? One of my complaints about air travel is the cramped, uncomfortable space and waste of time just sitting there. My solution would be to arrange the plane in a series of narrow sleeping tubes instead of seats. These wouldn't take up any more space and you could stretch out and go to sleep; that would eliminate the crowded feeling and the waste of time. Maybe the plane could be arranged so that part of it was sleeping tubes, and part seats for those people who like to be crowded, smell the b.o. of their seat-mates, and get coughed on.

Have you ever seen pictures of those sleeping tubes in the airport in Japan? For people experiencing lengthy waits for connecting flights, they can rent a sleeping tube to lay down in; I think they even have a TV in the far end to watch in case you just want to recline but not sleep.

If it was up to me, I'd eliminate first class seating in commercial airplanes entirely. I'm class-conscious enough that I don't need to be humiliated and humbled by walking through the "big seat" area before I must wade back to my miserable coach seat. I know the airlines love first class passengers because they can soak them for a ridiculous sum of money to avoid travelling with the unwashed masses. Kind of like buying your way out of military service in the Civil War. That's one reason I kinda like Southwest Airlines, the "Bus of the Air" which has only coach seating, no butt-kissing first class area. Besides, the first class area is taking up valuable space that could be converted to sleeping tubes.

One time years ago when I was a soldier in the army, I was travelling by bus and my route of travel took me through the Greyhound bus terminal in San Francisco. I had to wait a couple of hours for a connection, so I sat on one of the slatted wooden benches (just like the ones you saw in Dirty Harry movies when they look for a suspect in that same bus terminal). Before long, I nodded off and I don't know how long I was napping before a SF cop came by, tapped me on the foot with his baton and said, "No sleeping in the terminal." Then and now I have thought this was unfair; I had a paid ticket in my pocket; was it my fault that the particular bus I needed to catch wasn't there yet?

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